The Three Weeks of Jewish Mourning

Arch of Titus

From the Arch of Titus, depicting the Roman emperor’s triumphal procession with the treasures captured from the Temple in Jerusalem. (Wikipedia)

The Jewish people worldwide are now observing a period known as “The Three Weeks” in which they mourn and bemoan the destruction of Jerusalem.

This period begins on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz and continues through to the 9th day of the month of Av. Many mourning practices are observed at this time, most notably, weddings are not held and we do not listen to live music.

The reason for this period of mourning is to recall the destruction of Jerusalem. According to tradition, it was on the 17th day of Tammuz that the walls of Jerusalem were breached in both the first and second Temple periods, leading to the destruction of the Temples, and by extension, the destruction of Jewish life in Israel three weeks later on the 9th of Av. The beginning and end of this three week period are commemorated with a fast – the first, on 17 Tamuz, lasts from dawn till dusk, while the second, climaxing our feelings of mourning on the 9th of Av, is a 24-hour fast from sunset till sunset the next day.

Although the site of the Temple still lies in ruins, the Land of Israel is being built and renewed each and every day. The exiles are returning and its cities no longer lie desolate. The words of the prophets are coming true right before our very eyes. As Jeremiah told the people:

“Thus says the Lord. There will again be heard in this place which lies desolate without man or beast – in the cities on Judah and the streets of Jerusalem…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride….For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as it was at the first.” (Jeremiah 33:10-11)


Depiction of the Holy Temple (Courtesy, Temple Institute)

The prophecy of Amos is even more striking:

“And I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine, they shall also make gardens and eat of their fruit.” (Amos 9:14)

We are indeed fortunate to be living at a time when the reemergence of Jewish independence in the Holy Land has happened. The prophets teach that the climax and conclusion of this process of redemption will be with the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Until that time we must celebrate the present, but also mourn the past. However, once the Temple is rebuilt we will no longer fast on the traditional fast days nor mourn during this period of the Three Weeks. As Zechariah tells us:

“The fasts of the fourth and the fifth months will become joyful and happy occasions.” (Zechariah 8:18,19).

Our sages teach us how we can merit the final redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple. It’s simple to remember. It’s only one word – UNITY!

By: World Israel News Staff